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Ryan Mathews shows toughness, grit

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 22: Running back Ryan Mathews #24 of the San Diego Chargers receives the ball from quarterback Philip Rivers #17 against the Oakland Raiders at Qualcomm Stadium on December 22, 2013 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

    This was Ryan Mathews' best season yet.

    The Chargers running back, in his fourth season, rushed for a career best 1,255 yards. He had seven total touchdowns and six games where he ran past the century mark.

    More importantly, he played in every game, something he hadn't done since being drafted.

    "Just being able to stay healthy is hard, especially at the running back position," Mathews said. "It was fun."

    Despite a nagging ankle injury that was indicative of a serious high ankle sprain late in the season, Mathews continued to take the field, posting big numbers in his final two regular season games (99 and 144 rushing yards, respectively). He was used less in the postseason -- as his ankle flared up -- but exhibited mental and physical toughness with his ability to play and help his team.

    He was voted Offensive Player of the Year by his teammates.

    "He has been steady all year long," said quarterback Philip Rivers earlier this season. "He runs tough and confident. He has had a nice disposition all year. I'm not saying I predicted it, but I felt all offseason, OTAs and training camp that you just saw a confidence and I felt like he was ready to have his best year and he has done that. It's been impressive. The way he has been running, getting to the second level and always falling forward, it's always fun to watch him do it."

    Mathews credits his offseason work, and new strength and conditioning coach Kent Johnston, for the success he's had.

    "The strength and conditioning coaches, they got me right in the last offseason," he said. "They came in and saw something they can work on, and they molded me to be a better player."

    Now comes more work.

    "I'm just going to train," Mathews said of his offseason plans. "Train and get better. There's a lot of stuff I still have to work on. I can only go up from here and that's what I plan to do."